Road test: Peugeot 208 GTi is a true hot hatch legend
SOMEWHERE enroute to modern living the fun was lost.
Yearning for luxuries, economy and practicality, combined with enthusiastic revenue raising via all kinds of speed traps, driving enjoyment has vanished.
Climbing behind the wheel of Peugeot's new 208 GTi rekindled passions of old this week.
Billed as a reincarnation of the 205 GTi, which achieved royal status among hot hatch fans three decades ago, this athletic little hatch lives up to the hype.
For just under $30 grand you get a pocket-rocket with outstanding internal appeal and a rewarding experience behind the wheel.
We sampled the newcomer this week on the road and the track and couldn't help but leave with a beaming smile on the dial.
Inviting and sporty, the 208 GTi balances refinement with athleticism.
Well finished with leather across the dash, the flat-bottom steering wheel, colour touch-screen and red highlights which fade to black on the door handles and console create a point of difference.
There are some hard plastics through the cabin but they are well hidden by more prominent features.
The driver has an interesting set-up, with the main instruments set back in the dash. It can take some time to get accustomed, yet the ergonomics work and really negate the need to have a head-up display, which is becoming commonplace nowadays.
Given its ability to get up and boogie, the best option is to have the digital speedometer central to driver vision, given how far away you sit from the instrument binnacle.
Both front passengers are cocooned into the sporting leather seats and even those about 185cm have ample headroom. Things are much tighter in the back and, like most small hatches, the leg room quickly disappears if the front passengers are lanky.
On the road
Little more than a prod of the right pedal generates plenty of interest. Wriggling and responding to acceleration with vigour, it immediately feels like fun.
This is a proven 1.6-litre turbo powerplant and with peak torque available from a low 1700rpm it pulls nicely. Weighing just above 1100kg the 208 GTi is a true weapon, which comes to the fore when the terrain gets twisty. The chassis and suspension set-up is taut and firm, although surprisingly supple enough to soak up some challenging mid-corner bumps. It manages to walk the tightrope of performance and comfort.
Partnered exclusively to a slick-shifting six-speed manual, there are short throws between the cogs while the clutch is well weighted.
Even under acceleration it remains relatively quiet, allowing for some tyre rumble to enter the cabin but the noise never requires the passengers to yell during conversation.
We could handle an improved soundtrack from the exhaust to reinforce the sporting credentials.
The steering is wonderfully direct and sharp and, when pushed hard on the track, the understeer could be counteracted by extra power to maintain grip.
It's a brilliantly controllable little car.
What do you get?
The only option on the list is metallic paint, which costs $750. Everything else is part of the package, including dual zone air-conditioning, 17cm colour touch-screen, sat nav, six-speaker stereo with two USB ports and an AUX plug, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, along with leather wrapped gear shifter/steering wheel and part-leather seats, all with racing red stitching.
You even get a full-size alloy spare, and five-star safety.
There are a few others worth considering, including the Mini Cooper S ($42,990), Renault Clio RS 200 ($36,490), VW Polo GTi ($29,190), Citroen DS3 DSport ($29,740), Skoda Fabia RS ($27,990) , Abarth 500 Esse Esse $34,990) and Ford Fiesta ST ($25,990).
Given its dimensions the 208 GTi is never going to be family motoring. Four adults can fit although much depends on size and the willingness of those up front to sit a long way forward.
The glovebox is small and the cup holders are tight (you can put bottles in the doors), but there are some handy spots for phones along with other goods and chattels.
Boot space is surprisingly good, and the seats fold for extra cargo space.
Fuel consumption is cheap if you are careful: the official average is about six litres for every 100km. But even if you are heavy with the right foot it should never get too outrageous.
Servicing is capped at $370 for three years or 60,000km. Parts can be expensive, so it pays to be wary out of warranty period.
This is one fit little hatch. The 17-inch alloys fill the wheel arches, there is a black glossy rear apron and mean-looking running lights.
It looks muscular and squat, with awesome rear-light design, brilliant creases in profile and enough design differences to make it stand out from the hatch crowd.
What matters most
The good stuff: Tenacious grip and willingness to attack corners, direct steering feel, acceleration punch, cool interior finishes.
What we'd like to see: Louder exhaust soundtrack, better cup holders, automatic transmission option with paddle shifters.
Warranty and servicing: Three year/100,000km warranty. Servicing is annual or 10,000km, capped at $370 for three years or 60,000km.
Model: Peugeot 208 GTi
Details: Three-door front-wheel drive compact sports hatchback
Engine: 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol generating maximum power of 147W @ 5500rpm and peak torque of 275Nm @ 1700rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Consumption: 5.9 litres/100km (combined average)
CO2: 139 grams/km.
Performance: 0-100kmh in 6.8 seconds. 0-1000m 26.9 seconds
Bottom line: $29,990.